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Knuckling Down to the Hard Work of Writing

punching_woman.gifMy Dad had some choice 1930s phrases for exhorting us to work hard and act with integrity:

“Knuckle down!”

“Put some elbow grease into it!”

“Use the right tool for the job.”

“Straighten up and fly right.”

And the old reliable “Thatta boy!”

Maybe that’s one reason Ainsley Drew’s runner-up prize winning essay, Knuckle Down, Knuckle Up, appeals so strongly.

Dad would’ve been confused by Ainsley’s piece, would’ve failed to see the hard work and sweat oozing from a writer’s life. That’s okay. Twenty years from now I’ll be confused about how my kids are earning a living, too. Just hope I can remember when then.

Knuckle Down, Knuckle Up

The influx of work has once again slowed to a trickle, which means that it’s back to verbal bloodsport for me and my other half. Keywords and phrases of recent arguments: entitlement, worry, melodramatic, I’m going to/why don’t you just move back to New York, really?!, you act like the sky is falling, and the tried-but-true f*ck. If my life were a well-trafficked blog I could do a tag cloud.

For those Portland residents who didn’t see our tantrum both in Unthank Park as well as on the corner of Shaver, the conclusion came after my boyfriend and business partner was gently hit by a truck as he skated after me. We talked it out from a seated position, the conversation went nowhere, and I got so hungry that we decided to put the fight on hold while we went out for Mediterranean food.computer_garbage.gif

He was okay. The truck didn’t hit him hard. Jesus Christ, that sounds insensitive.

I decided that there has to be a deeper psychological component to our word combat. I mean, we’re not actually crazy, even though he tells me I need to “see someone.” We’re in love. Really, we are.

So I used Google to try to find an explanation, a sentence that, in and of itself, should clue me in as to how far along defecation creek my mental canoe has gone afloat.

Here was this little tidbit I dug up from the annals of Psychology Today, my favorite magazine to read in the library of my high-school when I wanted to seem “smart”:

Couples fight about money more than any other issue. This is as true of couples who stay married as of couples who wind up divorcing. The main financial matters couples fight over include levels of spending and saving (since women tend to think men should make more, while men tend to think that women should spend less), the amount of time spent working, differences in long-term financial goals such as retirement savings, and money chores such as balancing the checkbook and paying bills. [Psychology Today Magazine, Nov/Dec 2004]

Considering that we have no money to worry about saving, spending, or balancing in any way other than in a neat stack of quarters on the bedside table for bus fare, I don’t think this article is appropriate. Moreover, we work together, and we love what we do, so “time spent working” isn’t an issue. Retirement, for everyone in this country and particularly for freelance artists, is basically on par with a unicorn-versus-narwhal dance-off. It isn’t going to happen.

So, in conclusion, I suppose we don’t fight about money, although I’m no psychologist. I believe we fight ‘cause we want someone to give us a chance at a long-term gig, may it be corporate blogging or a company’s advertising copy and editing. And what adds to the short kids’ cage match is that we’re wholly poor, which makes us skip meals, and skipping meals makes us cranky. Two only children who are craving burritos and yet are forced instead to spend the afternoon together typing out compelling prose about bourgeoisie necessities such as vacation packages and software components. It’s basically the equivalent of taking two beta fish and tossing them into the same bowl, then dubbing over sound effects of hyenas ripping out each others throats. And that’s on a good day.

knuckles_in_agony.gifSince he thinks that we fight because I stress over money, I figure I have to get money for both of us in order to stop the endless fight. Money equals clients, in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know how to get clients—a gold lamé mini-dress, pleather stilettos, and a large thumb, perhaps—but I’m trying.

This morning I was still pretty keyed up, but I kept it to myself. My thoughts ranged from What does he know anyway? He at least has a part-time DJ gig to feed him to I don’t care about money, I wear the same clothes I did in high-school. Literally. It’s true.

Then I lost forty dollars on my way to the grocery store and the frenzied cycle of homicidal rage and abject terror that ensued—as well as the sudden, histrionic shift of the internal dialog—led me to believe that perhaps the boy is right. Maybe I do worry about money. Maybe I even, daresay, stress about it. Maybe I should see someone. And by someone I mean the kind folks at the local Food Stamp Office. Or a temp agency. Or my mom.

Adding to my generally apoplectic worldview is that I have no idea how to take the work we’re currently doing and apply it to the job hunt. One of our employers is at the helm of a sinking ship enterprise, and in response to a project we were sent an email about what we should be gearing our work towards. The meandering message and accompanying asinine images included MTV celebrities from circa 2000 as well as washed up socialites and the phrases like we were ballin’ and he came threw and got laced. [Editor’s Note: Yes, that spelling.] Scrolling through the suggested examples made me want to drink a liter of bleach and jump off of my roof. I couldn’t tell if it was serious. But, again, it’s writing for a living.

Sometimes it feels like freelance work is a lot like high-school, only without the dewy hormone-induced glow that arrives every morning. I’m grateful to be in this with someone as pigheaded, confrontationally capable, and small as me. It makes for a delightful off-road spectacle, if nothing else.

* * *

About the Writer

Ainsley Drew is a New York native currently spilling ink in the puddle known as Portland, Oregon. She and her cohort, Simon Goetz, work as a team of copywriters under the name Ministry of Imagery. Hire them to write for you and they will eat their own words. Ainsley’s work has appeared in Spindle and GO NYC Magazine, and she is the author of the blog Jerk Ethic. She has eleven spring-loaded fingers, so she can type faster than you.

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1 Comment to Knuckling Down to the Hard Work of Writing

On Jul 29, 2009, Soul Shelter » Fulfillment: A Work in Progress commented:

[…] “Knuckling Down to the Hard Work of Writing“ […]

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